El Capitan Reservoir

El Capitan, or “El Cap” as it is known to locals is one of the premier bass fishing lakes in San Diego County. It is located in the rural hills of Lakeside about 30 miles east of downtown San Diego.

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  • In addition to the outstanding bass fishery, El Capitan is also one of Southern California’s best crappie lakes. Catfish (both blues and channels), bluegill, carp and green sunfish are also present and abundant at the lake.

    At 1,562 surface acres (at full pool) it is one of the area’s largest reservoirs, and appears as such because of how long it is.

    El Capitan bears the brunt of the bass tournament activity in San Diego County, especially with San Vicente Reservoir closed for the dam raise project there.


    El Capitan Reservoir was created in 1934 as the result of building a dam along the San Diego River there.


    There is a picnic area with tables and barbecues situated above the launch ramp with an elevated and scenic view of the lake. There is a concession available at the lake, operated by an independent third party concessionaire. Rental boats are available on days the concession is open. For the concession schedule, visit rockymountainrec.com/lakes/lake-elcapitan.htm.


    elcapitanEl Capitan is one of the few reservoirs big enough to allow water contact activities. Water skiing, wake boarding, jetskiing, and other boating activities are permitted on limited days, and depending on the day of the week and the time of the year, those days can overlap with fishing days.

    El Capitan maintains two launch ramps, one for high water and one for low or medium pools. El Cap also allows float tubes, canoes, and kayaks, but those are required to pay a fee as well.

    Operating Schedule

    El Capitan Reservoir is open year-round on a limited basis, and the schedule changes seasonally. The lake is operated by the city of San Diego, so you can visit their “What’s New” page for current operating schedule, or keep an eye on our latest El Capitan Reservoir fish reports for the latest schedule information and fishing conditions.

    Water Level Trend

    The following chart shows measured water levels (feet below capacity) over the previous 12 months.

    El Capitan Fishing Records

    Black Crappie3.751987
    Blue Catfish50.852015Marrow Kimble
    Bullhead (Brown)1.871965
    Channel Catfish20.371974 
    Green Sunfish11966 
    Largemouth Bass15.311975Mark Torbet
    Redear Sunfish1.251984
    Striped Bass11.952014Ted Becharas
    White Crappie2.431971

    El Capitan Reservoir News